Ahead of Halloween, experts have been underlining the benefits of bats and their declining population through various programs and National Bat Week.
- The North American Bat Monitoring Program and whitenosesyndrome.orge are bringing awareness to the issues of bats
- White-nose syndrome killed 5.7 million bats in the U.S.
- Some bat species have been devastated, while others are now considered to be threatened
- For Halloween, locals are encouraged to build homes for bats to raise their young
Among most of the night creatures swooping across the darkened skies, bats are perhaps one of the main who deserve and should acquire a change of image. They’re instinctively seen as scary, annoyances, or just the telltale sign of abandoned places in movies. However, they play a remarkable role in the ecosystem, and that particular part is threatened to dissolve.
The North American Bat Monitoring Program has been conducting studies to better understand the enigmatic creatures. Among the existing 47 species found in the United States, barely a handful of them are well understood. This has driven both the program and the whitenosesyndrome.org coalition to make an effort to bring better knowledge to the public.
The attention has been spurned on and encouraged by a disease that is currently threatening the bat population. White-nose syndrome is a condition that has been first recorded in New York in 2006, and has since claimed the lives of 5.7 million bats. It’s named after the trademark white fungus that appears on their nose during hibernation.
Experts have not understood yet where it originated from or what can be done to stop it. However, what they do know is that it’s lethal to the bat population.
Virginia, for example, has seen a 98% decline in the numbers of little brown bats, along with a 94% drop for tri-colored bats, while the long-eared bat is now labeled as a ‘threatened species’. This has been all largely attributed to white-nose syndrome, while the rest of the blame fell on habitat loss, disturbance during hibernation, and wind farms.
Scientists have found that between 200,000 to 800,000 bats die each year due to collision with the rapidly spinning blades used in wind farms. And most of the reasons why are unknown.
Their population is avidly needed for the health of the ecosystem, as bats have an important role to play where it regards insects. Just one little brown bat can eat 600 mosquitoes per hour, while a larger species can eat up to 3,000 of them in the same span of time.
Furthermore, some species are excellent pollinators, such as the long-nosed bat, and the Mexican long-tongued bat.
The monitoring program is looking to gather more information by planning acoustic monitoring sites across 31 states and 10 Canadian provinces. The whitenosesyndrom.org coalition is urging the population to built 5,000 additional bat houses for Halloween, on October 31st.
This will provide the declining population of bats with homes to raise their young safely. And maybe, just maybe, with further monitoring and care of their maternity colonies, their numbers could see an improvement.
Image source: aqua.org